In the last six weeks we have gotten ready for a new baby. We talked about getting physically prepared for the pregnancy and the labor and delivery. We talked about getting everything from your child’s room to your relationship ready. We talked about how important it is to prepare for an emergency and to lean on your family and friends. Last week we talked about parenting styles . But what we haven’t talked about yet is the question that seems to be at the heart of “the mommy wars.” Are you already home with your older kids? Or after baby is born will you be on maternity leave and then returning to work? Will you be a work at home mom? A stay at home mom? A work out of the house mom? How will you decide?
For many women the choice is not a choice at all. Finances and the economy make that decision for many of us. I haven’t touched on the subject - to stay at home with your kids vs. finding an alternative caregiver and returning to work - because it is so hard to discuss without emotions getting involved for that very reason. For more than 75% of new mothers a return to work is not a choice that they make but a necessity to make ends meet. (Pictured here is my then 8 week old asleep in the floor in my office.)
Depending upon where you live if you plan to return to work after a maternity leave of average length you are very likely making arrangements now before your baby is even born. My oldest daughter was born in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Year round residency was climbing in the years we were there and the resources necessary to support that year round population were growing as quickly as they could. When I told a friend and co-worker that I was expecting the first words out of her mouth were “Get on a waitlist for daycare NOW, even if you think you won’t need it.” I hadn’t even had the chance to hold my baby in my arms and I was expected to be choosing a daycare?
We could debate the merits of staying at home vs returning to work for days. But is there any sense in it? Most of us are doing what our finances dictate for us as the only sustainable option. Either we return to work because we need to or we stay home because the cost of quality daycare is so high that it negates our income. If you are one of the lucky women that was able to choose what is best for your family without finances playing a role in the decision you certainly know you are fortunate.
I am most interested not in knowing what you planned to do but what were the factors that played into your decision aside from finances? For the mother preparing for a new baby what are the other things she might want to consider when making this decision? Would staying home fulfill you emotionally? Socially? Could you return to your line of work after a few years off or would technological advances leave you feeling behind? How flexible is your job or your career path? Do you have family or trusted caregivers to rely on?
Whatever you decide the good news is this - you can change your mind. Parenting is fluid and often what seems perfect on paper is a wholly different experience in reality. And the other good piece of news - I went back to work with my oldest and stayed home with my youngest and they both know I love them.